Experience of Infection Preventionists During First Wave of COVID-19

IPs experienced PPE shortages, high levels of stress and emotional exhaustion.

The COVID-19 pandemic developed into a full-fledged outbreak in March of 2020, becoming one of the worst public health crises the world has seen in decades. Due to this, the role of the infection preventionists (IPs) in healthcare settings became even more crucial than normal.

Investigators from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, in collaboration with Innovative Infection Prevention, sought to document the impact and experiences of IPs during the first wave of COVID-19 in real time.

The data was presented at the 2021 Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology conference virtual sessions.

For the study, the team of investigators developed a weekly link to a Google survey about the experience of IPs during COVID-19 on March 8, 2020. The survey was then sent semi-monthly from May 15 to July 15.

To analyze the quantitative data, the investigators used descriptive statistics and to analyze qualitative data, a thematic analysis was used. Participation was voluntary and no institutional review board review was sought.

Over 14 rounds of the surveys, 52 participants completed 154 of them. Findings showed that the respondents worked significant overtime in March and April, with mean hours a week being 68 and 51, respectively.

The qualitative analysis demonstrated that the IPs completed basic practices and experienced personal protective equipment shortages.

Additionally, the respondents reported high stress and emotional exhaustion throughout the study period. They also reported more empowerment, credibility, and value to their facilities during the pandemic.

“IPs are specialized healthcare workers at the heart of managing this pandemic,” the authors wrote. “IPs predictably worked long hours, were concerned about PPE and basics of infection prevention that are critical to keeping staff safe. They also reported that the impact of COVID-19 on the IP role was largely positive.”